If you are fat, queer and fashion-minded, Curvy Girl Lingerie is like a slice of heaven on earth.
Chrystal Bougon, owner of Curvy Girl and author of Making It Hot: Sex Tips From The Curvy Girl Playbook, really wants to put you in some lingerie. So much she paid for us to come by her shop— now located at 2990 Meridian Ave in San Jose—to talk about body positivity and the joys of masturbating for three weeks straight.
If you missed that red text above, here's another chance to visit the Curvy Girl Lingerie site. Go ahead and click on it now. It'll open up in a new tab, and once you finish this interview, you'll be hyped to pick up what she's putting down. And there's a coupon code! But you gotta read through the rest of the article first. Them's the breaks!
What inspired you to get into the business of empowering fat bodies with sexy attire and tasteful sex toy displays? I stress the word tasteful.
I love trashy lingerie! And I knew I couldn’t be the only fat woman who loved it, too. I did about 1200 pleasure parties in 13 years all over the Bay Area—women of size would often confide in me that they wanted to know where I bought lingerie. About 99% of the lingerie I owned I had bought online. What I really wanted, though, was to have the same experience that other women get to have. I wanted somewhere to go where I could try on a bunch of pretty and trash stuff.
Lingerie shopping is intimidating enough, even if you have a body that is centered as desirable. How can shop owners cultivate a safe and encouraging space for people who rarely see bodies like theirs deemed hot and worthy of desire?
It’s a challenge for sure. For one thing, just having CLOTHES we can try on is huge. I mean, how many times have you seen retailers only sell their plus size fashions online and not in their retail stores at the mall?
I think just knowing when you walk into Curvy Girl that we definitely have lingerie from size 12 to size 28/30 will take some of the stigma and stress out of the equation.
In terms of other retailers, I think it might also be helpful to have a diverse staff that works in the boutique. If you want to cater to women of size, you really need to employ some women who know the struggle.
I think many readers, and even you and I, have one or two really bad experiences of fatphobia from retail, or just being embarrassed when something doesn’t fit. Online shopping is a crapshoot—I think you said something like “buy 10, return 7”—and very impractical for things like corsets and lingerie, but for some that fear of judgment is just that real. Why should people who are local come visit your shop and try everything on your racks?
We have a very strict NO OBLIGATION TO BUY policy. We try to share that policy verbally with all of our new customers. You can come to my store and try on 50 things and not buy even one of them. Of course, we hope you do find something. But sometimes it takes a few visits. And, that is okay with us.
It’s fun to play dress up. It’s fun for customers to try something on they’ve seen on our site or Instagram. Maybe they aren’t ready to buy the lingerie. Maybe we didn’t have the exact right thing for them. Whatever the reason, it’s okay. We aren’t here to make a quick sale. We’re here to develop a relationship and a community.
Our customers are welcome to bring a friend or their partner. You’re welcome to go into one of our three (Editor’s Note: very homely) dressing rooms. We’d love to offer whatever assistance or second opinion you need, but you’re just as welcome to take 5 or 6 items and just try them on without much interruption.
Some women are super modest. Some women are extremely comfortable walking around our boutique half naked. We want to accommodate everyone’s shopping style. We realize shopping for lingerie can sometimes be very emotional and stressful.
Fat fashion has a stigma of being a racket. How has your experience as a consumer of clothes for fat women informed you to make conscientious decisions around quality and cost margins? What are some considerations fat folk should keep in mind while shopping for lingerie, regardless of where?
So true. Yes, I have been a consumer since the 3rd grade. I’m 48 now. I’m very used to the crap out there, believe me. Crap that falls apart after one wash, but it cost me $50 for the t-shirt.
We try to have something at all price points at Curvy. You can find lingerie from us that is $35 up to $130.
Honestly, some of the stuff we sell is just mediocre in quality. Some of it is much better made.
In my own personal experience, I find that my body (and my fat) puts a lot of stress on my clothing. Same goes for my lingerie. I find the better quality stuff holds up better long term, but those items are more expensive. It’s nothing revolutionary. We pay more for the better quality, and that sucks. I’m a size 24/26—I need the sturdier lingerie to hold up to my butt, stomach and my thighs.
We try really hard not to gouge our customers. I get as many complaints as compliments on our prices.
My best advice for shopping online is to ALWAYS know the exact return / exchange policy. At Curvy we only offer exchanges. But we want you to be thrilled with your purchase! If you aren’t local and can’t come into the store, please please please give us a call during store hours—we will do everything we can to help you make sure you pick the right product and size for you on the first try.
In case any shoppers are overwhelmed with the breadth of selection: how do you determine whether you need a baby doll, a teddy, or one of those Pink Lipstick dresses?
We try to get a feel for the occasion they are buying for. Are they celebrating an anniversary? Are they going to a play party? Are they taking some lingerie on vacation? Do they want something to just wear around the house? Once we have a sense for their occasion, then we know where to start.
A lot of the more corporate “body positivity” branding present fat bodies as just skinny bodies “scaled up”, in terms of beauty standards and obsession with proportion. How are fat bodies beautiful to you in and of themselves? What about them, and your own body, compels and motivates you to champion and service them in an industry that is often poised against them?
Yes, it sure does seem like some of those big corporations are trying to jump on the body love bandwagon. I think that is mostly a good thing, although it often feels a little hollow and like we are supposed to be so grateful for the crumbs they are throwing our way. But, it’s my hope that they will also start showing NON hourglass bodies in their ad campaigns. And, more women of color, more mature women and trans women. Inclusivity is SEXY. Representation is sexy. For now it does feel like they are pandering to all of us a bit, but hopefully it’s also the case that they are starting to get it. We all have a lot of buying power when you add it all up.
What compels me is that I am SELFISH! I am a fat woman. I am likely always going to be a fat person. I want to own every single thing my thinner sisters get to own. I want to live in a world where I can walk through Macy’s and find thousands and thousands of tables and racks filled with stuff that fits me.
At my local Macy’s, I have to walk down two flights of stairs to the basement and down near the restrooms to find my sizes. On that long ass walk, I walk by so many displays of gorgeous “straight size” clothes, bras, panties, jewelry, pajamas, dresses. Yhen I get to my section and it’s down in the dark basement.
That crap has to stop.
When I visited your shop, there was a man who came into the store looking for something for his wife. You asked him what bra cup his wife was, and then he got a little sheepish and you said “Look, I know you know how big your wife’s breasts are.” It was great. I find that sort of frankness relieving. It’s so uncomfortable when you’re in a sex shop and the people working there are clearly embarrassed or flummoxed with the products.
I just feel like we all got here the same way. Our parents had sex. All humans do it—either alone or with someone else or lots of other people. No big deal. Lingerie typically leads to sex or romance; I just call it out up front.
I can talk about pain-free anal sex with a total stranger at noon on a weekday stone cold sober. I just feel like there is no shame in the human body, and no shame in pleasure.
What of the lingerie and/or corsets that you sell would you recommend for the following occasions:
1) Skypeing with a lover who is traveling to encourage them to come home soon
2) having an “eat ice cream in our underwear” date with someone that you’re hoping can become like a date-date
3) going to a sex party by yourself but hoping to leave with someone who’ll make you a well-balanced breakfast
4) sexy selfies to put on your social media to encourage people to take you out on dates and buy you nice things?
Skypeing with your lover could be fun with a style that has the “boob out” style for a little peek a boo action. That could be a super hot reveal on a webcam. The Wanda and the Shoshi on our website would be great for this!
Maybe a little baby doll like our best seller, the Leilani could be sweet and innocent and is also very comfortable in case of a food fight. The Leilani comes in two colors and is available in size 1x thru 6x. The 6x fits my customer size 28/30.
We often recommend the Pink Lipstick dresses for our customers going to play parties because they are gorgeous on a fat body and they offer easy access, too. Also, our Ariana sheer black babydoll with the vinyl bust and vinyl thong could be very sassy at a play party. And, the 3-4x will fit someone up to a size 28.
We notice that our corsets and our “Naughty by Nature” gets a lot of LIKES on Facebook and love on Instagram.
I’ve avoided saying “fat women” because you’ve expressed to me how important it is that everyone of any and all gender and sexual identities are welcome in your space. Are you confident that you can find something that will flatter and gratify any body type and birth assignment? Oh my god, it just occurred to me: are thin people welcome at Curvy Girl?
YES! Everyone is welcome at Curvy Girl. I mean, we do sell sex toys, plus size strap ons and bondage gear. Sex toys are typically one size fits all. Thin women are most definitely welcome. We have lots of allies and customers of all sizes who randomly find us via Yelp or Groupon. When they don’t fit into our lingerie, they check out our lubricants, our shoes, our massage oils, books and adult games.
I use to use the term “people who identify as a woman” a lot when describing who might like to shop at my boutique. But if you are a person who identifies as a woman, then you are a woman; that is that. I am always looking to find the best way to say that EVERYONE is welcome at Curvy girl. It’s my goal to help anyone who feels marginalized and excluded to have a safe place to shop. I want to create a community for anyone who wants more body positivity in their life.
And: we do have a lot of male presenting customers who want to buy lingerie, too. We have some regulars who are into wearing lingerie for pleasure or for fun. We have a few guidelines when it comes to men trying on our lingerie, but we just talk with them about those guidelines—not too much cologne on, etc. If they’re super nervous, we try to give them some space to breathe and walk around a bit.
We find that weekdays are quieter, so for our very anxious customers, we suggest coming by when the store isn’t packed so they can have more 1 on 1 time with us to get comfortable.
Tell me about “The Curvy Girl Challenge”. Or rather, tell the people who’ll read this about it. You told me and I thought it was great!
My Curvy Girl Challenge is a challenge my fans and customers to use masturbation to fall in love with your body. It’s a bit of a wicked spin on the typical “21 days to 6 pack abs” or “Tone up and diet down and lose 1,000 lbs in 21 days” kind of crap we sell all day every day. Truly, I believe that all of our bodies are capable of creating so much pleasure. And, if someone is out there and is really feeling disembodied and having some bad body image days, I like them to take my 21 day challenge into consideration. Getting in touch with how much pleasure your fat body can create can help you to fall in love with it. You can be 100 lbs or 600 lbs...an orgasm feels awesome!
When I visited you were very adamant that I try on whatever I wanted, and I was so tempted, but I was afraid I’d leave San Jose dragging a big ass bag of sluttery with me all the way back to the East Bay. Well here’s your chance. Sell me on something. Show our readers you’re not a trifling merchandiser.
There's also the Jaclyn, which is similar to the Melissa. The back has a sexy little booty cut out and I think it would have looked gorgeous on you.
I would have asked you what your favorite colors and style typically is, so I could point you to those, but those would have looked like a million dollars on you.
My employees call me the lingerie whisperer.
Also, I can’t wait to find out if the Kixies thigh highs worked for you or not. I sure hope so!
USE THE COUPON CODE "HARLOT" TO GET 20% OFF YOUR CURVY GIRL ORDER.
GOOD UP TO MARCH 24/2016.
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